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Conservation status: Amber

A small, dark goose - the same size as a mallard. It has a black head and neck and grey-brown back, with either a pale or dark belly, depending on the race. Adults have a small white neck patch. It flies in loose flocks along the coast, rather than in tight skeins like grey geese. It is an Amber List species because of the important numbers found at just a few sites.



Latin name

Branta bernicla


Swans, ducks and geese (Anatidae)

Where to see them

Estuaries and saltmarshes. Main concentrations of dark-bellied birds in the Wash, the North Norfolk coastal marshes, Essex estuaries, the Thames Estuary and Chichester and Langstone Harbours. Most light-bellied birds are found at Strangford Lough and Lough Foyle, N Ireland and at Lindisfarne, Northumberland.

When to see them

Birds arrive in October and depart again in March.

What they eat

Vegetation, especially eel-grass.


EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
--91,000 'dark-bellied' birds, 27,000 'light-bellied' from the Canadian breeding population and 3,400 'light-bellied' from the Svalbard population-



In the UK
Coasts of N, E and S England, and N Ireland.
In Europe
Arctic islands (breeding); Denmark, Netherlands, France, UK and Ireland (winter)
Europe, Asia and N America


David Farrow, Xeno-canto

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